The Spirit of Connection
Communication and Relationships in Rural America
OUTdrive Episode 18 with Christine Tew
In this episode of OUTdrive, Cliff visits with Christine Tew, an experienced public relations expert currently serving as Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Missouri Soybean Association. Christine’s resume is impressive, and her personal dedication to the ag industry and helping those she works with succeed truly set her apart.
Cliff and Christine discuss the spirit of connection in rural America, using creative strategies to effectively reach your audience in new and innovative ways, the value of asking smart questions and more. Read more for some great insights from their conversation.
Meet People Where They Are
At the heart of the spirit of connection is people. As marketers and rural American lifestyle lovers, Christine and Cliff understand the importance of knowing where your audiences are so they can be effectively reached. However, this continues to evolve across the board now more than ever, especially with all the implications of COVID-19 and how and where people are consuming media.
Communicating to everyone who touches or uses soy in their daily life is a big job (after all, nearly everyone does) but Christine is not one to shy away from a challenge or to be afraid to adapt her strategies to try new things. She uses social media as an example of something that continues to change, saying, “I work in this space and I don’t go to Facebook wanting to know about soybean research. I go to Facebook, because I want to see cool pictures of my friends, their kids and their pets.”
She explains that shifting approaches still includes making resources available online for soybean producers, but in spaces that are more appropriate. She continues, “It’s really shifted to making resources available online. Maybe we put how to get to them on Facebook. But if you’re looking for new information on soil health benefits from cover crops, or how to make a ROI, or measure your ROI off your cover crop, you’re probably not going to see that pushed through Facebook anymore.”
Christine goes on to share a similar thought for consumer communications. She says, “We hear and see the same things when we work with consumer facing programs, especially something where we’re trying to communicate the nutrition benefits of soy to busy moms.” Christine continues, “An online cooking class at 6:30 pm might not be the best thing for them, because that’s the height of suppertime, homework and bath time. But if you put out the online cooking class at noon, maybe they watch it over their lunch break, and they can pick up ingredients on their way home after they’ve been inspired.”
Understanding where your audience is, why they are there and how and when they like to be communicated with can increase engagement and create more of an impact building brand awareness. Cliff drives the point home, saying, “I love the perspective of meeting people where they are, because they’re really deciding how they’re going to consume media. It’s our job as marketers to make it easily found and easily accessible, but they’re going to decide how to get to it.”
Supporting Others to Create Opportunities
While understanding needs is vital for marketers, the concept can be applied to personal and professional connections as well. Throughout their conversation, Christine and Cliff talk about the importance of advocating for and mentoring others and having clear expectations. Investing in your team and peers as professionals and individuals gives them the confidence and resources to succeed.
Christine credits her mentors and personal dedication and determination for her success. Looking back, Christine says, “I was fortunate to have so many of those great mentors, who not only coached me, but who would open the door for me to either learn something new or meet other really good people. And rather than telling me you need to go meet them, they would create that opportunity, and let me walk through that doorway myself.”
As the conversation continues, Christine explains that this lesson helps guide her as she mentors others. She says, “A couple of folks that I had been fortunate to meet with over the years, made introductions. I was able to ‘carry my own water’ from there, but I needed that little boost. And being that little boost for our interns, and for the next generation of folks who really want to go do something awesome is fulfilling for me.”
Communication is at the heart of every successful relationship. Cliff drives the point home with, “It all comes down to communications, setting the table for what’s expected and what people are looking for. And then, if you can meet those expectations, you have every opportunity in the world to be successful. And if you don’t, it’s your own darn fault.”
Taking Care of Your People
Whether it is a team member or an industry peer, mentors like Christine are a perfect example of individuals who help others without expecting anything in return, a core value prevalent in rural America.
Christine uses her childhood as an example of this, saying, “Growing up, it was the way of looking out for each other. That really stuck with me and I feel that working in Missouri agriculture today. I think that spirit of connection where we’re always looking out for one another and you’re going to give without that expectation of something coming back to you, that is such a hallmark of rural America for me.”
As technology evolves and everyday routines change, the way individuals and brands connect change too. The idea of connecting with those with similar interests is something that Christine, Cliff and many others love about rural America. Whether you live the rural lifestyle or are marketing to those who live out here, it all boils down to one thing: take care of your people. Christine captures this idea perfectly, saying, “I think it all boils down to taking care of your people, and in a rural community, my community is my people.”
Are you taking care of your people? Is your brand meeting your audience where they are to accomplish your communication goals and objectives?
Hear more from Cliff and Christine about the spirit of connection in rural America, the importance of meeting your audience where they are, and more insight into rural America in this episode of OUTdrive. Check it out!